The Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) has finally opened to motorists after decades upon decades of political – and literal – gridlock in the north-east.
After months of wangling to get the last remaining section of the 36-mile bypass, rush-hour commuters were able to travel all the way from Stonehaven to the north of Bridge of Don.
Transport chiefs and local politicians hailed the opening, and said the route would offer “improved connectivity and reduced congestion”.
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Since the major part of the road opened in December 2018, the overwhelmingly positive feedback has demonstrated the positive impact that infrastructure can bring about in people’s lives, the quality of their environment and the economy as a whole.”
However, although the project is now finally completed – more than 25 years after it was first mooted – there is still controversy over its cost.
Mr Matheson yesterday admitted the road would cost the taxpayer £1.45billion over the next 30 years.
At Holyrood, Mr Matheson confirmed the annual charge paid to contractors Aberdeen Roads Ltd would come to an average of £48million per year until 2048.
Ministers have put the official estimate for AWPR cost at £745m, which represents the value of the scheme at the outset of the contract in 2014.
But the overall figure almost doubles when repairs, maintenance and inflation are taken into account plus the model used to finance the project.
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The AWPR is being built under a “non profit distributing (NPD)” model which involves the public and private sector and results in payments over many years.
Mr Matheson said there were “no plans for any changes” to the £1.45bn figure “as it stands at the present time” when questioned by North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald.
Mr Macdonald said: “Under this model for paying for projects of this kind, it means twice as much is paid over a much longer timescale, so north-east taxpayers can be expected to be paying this off well into the 2040s.”
Completion dates for the much-anticipated infrastructure project varied wildly over the course of the construction – in 2014, it was estimated the entire bypass would be open to traffic on the winter of 2017.
However, due to numerous major setbacks, including inclement weather and the collapse of construction giant Carillion – one of the three contractors for the project under the consortium of Aberdeen Roads Limited alongside Balfour Beatty and Galliford Try – pushed the deadline further and further into the future.
Last night, Aberdeenshire Council leader Jim Gifford said he was looking forward to seeing the full benefits of the road.
He added: “There have certainly been challenges along the way, but we must now focus on the benefits we are already beginning to enjoy in terms of improved connectivity and reduced congestion.”
And Aberdeen City Council co-leader Jenny Laing added: “The AWPR is a vital component of Aberdeen City Council’s £1billion capital programme underpinned by the regional economic strategy which is providing the bedrock for a bright, prosperous future for the city and wider region.
“The opening of the AWPR, a much needed and long-awaited development, will have as significant an impact from an economic perspective as it will in terms of transport.”
Meanwhile, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has asked Transport Scotland to carry out a new traffic survey on the A90 Blackdog to Peterhead road.
Mr Stevenson has argued that with the completion of the bypass and the Balmedie to Tipperty dualling project, the road is far busier.
In particular, the MSP highlighted the impact it could have on traffic using the notorious Toll of Birness to Peterhead section, which he believes could potentially qualify it for dualling work.
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